The 1953 Kentucky Derby inspired Robin Liberatore's "Derby Room" at...

The 1953 Kentucky Derby inspired Robin Liberatore's "Derby Room" at the Design Showhouse at Hempstead House. (Oct. 26, 2013) Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan

Cinematic is the best word to describe the decorator show house opening this weekend at the 50,000-square-foot Hempstead House at the Sands Point Preserve. A restoration work in progress, the castle-like former Gould-Guggenheim estate often brings in revenue from its use in movies and television, including HBO's "Boardwalk Empire."

That show's production designer Bill Groom and set decorator Carol Silverman returned to the mansion to recreate a set used there for the series -- a room at a bordello, known as the Artemis Club, down to a pack of Camels on the bedside table.

Rather than decorate another of the bedrooms, some "curated" it. Karli Hagedorn and Jean-Marie Posner -- both of the nonprofit Friends of the Sands Point Preserve, which oversees the park's 216 acres and its homes -- created a Virginia Woolf room with furniture, fabrics, accessories and art reflective of the bohemian and forward-thinking world in which the author and others from the Bloomsbury Group of intellectuals lived. Tonight's masquerade ball to launch the event will feature an artist sketching a partly clothed model in the room, in keeping with the spirit of the period.

And for those who think window dressings, rug patterns and furniture lines are de rigueur at these kinds of events, make sure to take in landscape designer Julie Moir Messervy's sunroom devoted to cellist Yo-Yo Ma. She collaborated with Ma to create the Toronto Music Garden, the design of which is inspired by the first of Johann Sebastian Bach's cello suites. At the Hempstead House, her room becomes an abstract design, too -- next to a cello there is a high-backed wing chair where Ma might sit and play, but the rest of the space is meant to be an imaginary landscape with giant silver stones, glittery logs, maple saplings, rugs of saturated color and streamers finger painted by children as they listened to that first cello suite.

This is the first time since the early '80s that interior designers have been invited to come into the 1912 Tudor-style mansion to dress its rooms. Here's a look at the rest of the house, worth a trip to see with or without the props.


It's hard to imagine that the library was unfurnished before the decorators arrived -- in particular, the decor in this 36-by-25-foot room looks like it has always been there. "I wanted it to be furnished as it might have been, but feel fresh and current," says Barbara Marcone of Classic Galleries in Huntington. The leather sofa, carved chest and Jacobean chairs are all traditional; the paper shades on the floor lamps, apple green linen on the wing chairs and Midcentury Modern end table update the setting.


Designers were asked to choose an iconic titan in business, entertainment and the arts. Levittown decorator Inaam Elias Tahhan pays homage to the late fashion designer Alexander McQueen. The edgy black Jaguar chairs are worth a look-see.


Babylon designer Robin Liberatore's "The Derby Room" found inspiration in the estate's former resident Harry Guggenheim, whose horse Dark Star won the 1953 Kentucky Derby. Blue and orange, being on opposite ends of the color wheel, could be garish in this modern-day equestrian room. Blue is the dominant color, with hints of orange, such as the lacquer credenza, barrel-backed tufted dining chairs and the horse shoes placed on mirrors.


Hempstead House is a popular site for weddings, a point not lost on Huntington designer Liz Cordeiro. But her gossamer-like Marriage Suite pays homage to nuptials of all kinds. The gender-neutral space includes gay wedding invitations, congratulation cards and a tuxedo.


WHAT Design Showhouse at Hempstead House

WHEN | WHERE 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays through Mondays, opening Saturday, through Nov. 24, with a masquerade ball to launch the event Friday night at 7, at Hempstead House, Sands Point Preserve, 127 Middle Neck Rd.

INFO $30 for those 13 and older; parking at the preserve is an additional $10 per car; tickets for the masquerade ball are $200 each; 516-571-7901; more events -- including a fashion show and an art exhibit -- listed at

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